December 2016

Another year gone by.  A mixed blessing.

The past year in the shop had a variety of items from repaired hammered dulcimers and rocking horses to spinning tops, a contemporary blanket box  and those huge elm table tops.  I’ve got a good lineup for 2017, and am looking forward to getting more pieces into the hands of appreciative customers.

December surprised us with a variety of weather, and three good snow storms.  Temperatures ranged from a high of 50° (10°C), then a few days later it it dropped to -12° (-24°C).  Quite the contrast. Here is what it looked like, if you use your imagination:img_8924The first two snowstorms were nothing to write home about. However, on the 30th, just when we thought we’d go through December without the snowblower, we got a nice Nor’easter.  Portland got mostly rain and a few inches, farther inland, the accumulation was greater and the heavy we snow broke branches and caused power outages.  In our area, even further inland, we got 15″ (38cm), not too wet, thank goodness, so none of our trees were damaged.  Northwest of here, they got about 25″ (64cm) of powder.  The next morning was nice an sunny.  That’s my van on the left. img_8941In the shop I stayed busy as well.  Did a little private tutoring, some repairs, and a prototype that went into the wood stove.  Then I built seven of my small wall cabinets.  They are quite involved, and include half blind dovetails top and bottom, adjustable shelves, tiny extruded hinges, a mini turned knob, and restoration glass doors.  I made five out of cherry, one elm, and one out of fumed, quarter sawn white oak.  There is a reason I use mostly cherry.  The oak and elm are not fun to work.  img_8926A few month ago I got an email from a reader wanting to know how I nailed my  glass retainer strips  into the doors.  The strips are only 3/16″ x 1/8″ (.48 x .32 cm).  On doors this small and strips that tiny, hammers don’t work.  Here is the way I do it.  Have fun.

Finally, check the  Events page.  I’ve already scheduled a workshop at Lie- Nielsen Toolworks, June 10-11…

Best wishes for 2017.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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November 2016

It’s not quite winter yet, but it’s on the way.  We had two days of flurries, that didn’t  amount to much.  On the other hand, it was easier to take than the foot or so they got in Northern Maine.  So I guess we’ve been lucky up to now.  It’s only a matter of time…

img_8891After a few months of work, many headaches, and way more time than I’d planned on, the two huge Herbie tables were finally delivered.  The tops are single boards, 50″ wide and  112″long.  The bases are polished stainless steel tubing.  img_6403Now that those two giants were out of the way, I actually got a few other projects going in the shop.  First, an oval walnut mirror, 24″ x 36″.  Working with cherry constantly, it’s a real treat to use black walnut for a change.  It turned out well, and even has a bit of figure in the top and bottom curves.img_8878The big November project was a blanket box.  I’d been saving  five slabs of clear white pine for almost 18 years.  Good and dry.  Single boards, all the way around.  After trimming the sapwood, the case was still 21″ tall.   CHB casesLiking the looks of the walnut mirror, I decided that the box needed a little contrast.  Nice dark walnut molding around the lid.  To avoid ribs under the lid to keep it flat, I ran a dovetail groove into the pine ends, and incorporated a dovetail directly into the molding, which worked well and looks pretty cool.  Here is the back of the case.CHB casesThe molding is chamfered along the top and bottom edges.   To give the box a bit more of a contemporary look, I did away with the traditional bracket base, and instead, set it on an inset black walnut plinth.  It also makes the case look a bit lighter.  It’s actually quite heavy, with it’s red cedar lining.  Lastly, I had a chance to use those  beautiful custom made Damascus steel hinges. CHB cases What a gem, and FWW turned it down.

The last project was a hymn number board for the First Universalist Church in Yarmouth, Maine.  This too, was made of left over Herbie wood (American elm).  Nice color contrast, a gorgeous slab with a bevel on the top edge, a natural edge on the left side, and a rough-cut bottom edge.  It is roughly 18″ x 24″img_8899

Facebook?  Am I kidding, after the diatribe I posted in September 2011?  Well, yes and no.  I do have a facebook page, but it’s run by my wife.  So you’ll get a bit of overlap, some of the same stuff and maybe even a different point of view.  We’ll see who is more consistent.  So far I have 86 monthly posts.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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October 2016

Without a doubt, October is my favorite month.  The colors, the light, the atmosphere, the lack of bugs , and the temperature all make for a great time outdoors.  We’ve had a very dry summer and were told by the powers that be, not to expect too much in the way of fall color.  On the contrary, it was a spectacular October, with brilliant colors.  Walking the dog through the woods, under red and sugar maples, the ground was littered with hues that would put a Persian carpet to shame.img_8859The month started with Maine Craft weekend.  It’s always something to look forward to, seeing friends, customers, and strangers come to the shop and showroom to chat, look, and have a few doughnuts, and cookies.  This year we had over 55 folks stop by on Saturday and Sunday.  Sold a few things, too.

The next weekend was Harvest festival at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village.  I had a small display in the barn.  The weather was great, the people friendly, and the food, displays, and demonstrations were lots of fun.img_8847Sold a few books and DVDs, the pine wall clock found a new home, and I caught up with many of the Friends of the Shakers. At lunch I snuck out for a few photos.  This is a view of the Virginia creeper along the stone retaining wall at the Shaker cemetery.  Fall in Maine is amazing.img_8869While 2015 was the October of apples, this year there were very few.  Instead, it was the year of a most prolific mast crop.  I’ve never seen so many acorns.img_8870You couldn’t walk under an oak tree without stepping on them.  The deer and turkeys will have a good winter.  Likewise the squirrels and chipmunks. Black walnuts  like never before. I got almost a bushel, and have them shelled and drying.  A few I save out to plant around town, part of my ongoing guerilla forestry project.img_8850We had a Maine Woodworkers meeting at my shop this month.  It’s been a few years since the last one here.  Quite the gathering.  I gave a brief overview illustrated with pictures of 20 or 30 items produced by the Herbie Project, back in 2010. There were really great pieces from New England’s largest elm, made by some of Maine’s best woodworkers.  The two Herbie table tops are still at the finishers, and are awaiting their stainless steel bases.

I got my smiling face onto the printed page several times this month.  First, the cover of FWW.  The standing desk article was  the fastest turn-around from building to print, that I’ve experienced in 28 years with the magazine.  Anissa did a great job, many thanks.  And it’s also the first of the new cover designs.  Much cleaner.  Looks great, Mike.w257-1

The annual FWW Tools & Shop issue features my under the work bench storage cabinet.  It was fun and easy to make, and has made a huge difference in  organizing all those clamps, bits, glue bottles, hold downs, dogs, and other assorted detritus that previously had no place to call home.

A major treat, and a great honor, was to be featured in Nick Offerman’s new book, Good Clean Fun.  A whole chapter, no less!  Get yourself an autographed copy, direct from Nick at  the Offerman WoodShop  Or you can trot down to the local book emporium and pick up a copy there.  In either case, it’s an entertaining and informative tome.9780451484994_p0_v4_s192x300

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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September 2016

This September was the month of Herbie.  Herbie was the biggest American elm (Ulmus americana) in all of New England.  The tree sprouted in 1794, which was during George Washington’s second administration.  Frank Knight, the Yarmouth, ME tree warden, had kept Herbie fairly healthy for almost 50 years.  In 2010, the tree as beyond saving, and had to be cut down.  Some of the branches were over 4′ thick (1.22 m), and the trunk was over 10′ long (3 m) and roughly 7′ (2.1 m) at the butt end. I joined the Herbie committee and suggested that we distribute the wood to craftspeople throughout Maine.  During the next 9 months the branches  were  cut up, and the trunk was sawn and the boards were kiln dried, and the wood was distributed to woodworkers throughout the state.   They made chairs, benches, birds, baseball bats, cabinets, desks, tables, music stands, hundreds of bowls, pens, a coffin, sculptures,  cutting boards, and even an electric guitar.  In November of 2010, we held and auction of the items, and the Yarmouth Tree Trust grossed over $80,000., and cleared roughly $49, 000., making Herbie the most valuable tree ever cut in Maine.  3HerbieThe Lucas mill cut the trunk into hundreds of boards, but couldn’t go low enough to slice the last 4″ (10 cm) at the center of the tree.  We were left with a slab 59″ wide (1.5 m) and 118″ long (3 m). Nobody wanted that huge, heavy piece.  We had it re-sawn a year later and stored it in a heated warehouse.  Recently, someone bought the two slabs, to be made into table tops.  They had shrunk down to 52″ (1.3 m).

The re-sawing operation left both slabs roughly 1 1/4″ (3.18 cm) at one end and almost 2 1/2″ (6.4 cm) at the other.  How to flatten them was a problem. I tried a router jig, but found that a) I couldn’t  reach across the jig and the full width of the board,  b) my back couldn’t take it, and c) flattening both sides of two slabs would take days, routing 1/4″  (6.4 mm) at a time.  We ended up taking the slabs to Westbrook, ME to a big shop with a 54″ (1.37 m) wide belt sander.  Let me tell you those slab were heavy!  Even with a 50 grit belt, we could only take off  1/2 mm at a time.  Do the math… it took about 70 passes for each slab.  Six hours the first day, then another hour the second day.  This is what they looked like back at the shop, leaning against my bench:shop/projects

 

I had to get a neighbor to help me heft them onto sawhorses.  First I used my jig saw to cut curves into all four sides, then a belt sander to fair the edges.  I lined up my  Lie-Nielsen planes across the width, #62, #5, and #7, for a full 50″ (1.27 m) width at the center.shop/projectsBoth slabs had bark inclusions near one end, where the trunk began to branch out.  Those voids were roughly 3″ wide (17.8 cm) and about 36″ long (94 cm).  I tied them together with walnut butterflies, 3 each, half the thickness of the tops. The bulk was routed out, then chiseled.shop/projectsCalling the neighbor again, we flipped them over, and I routed out for small strips, and made them flush with the bottom of the slab.  This added a little more strength and divided each void into 4 areas per slab,  later to be filled with clear epoxy.  But first, they had to be hauled off to the finisher for two coats of satin conversion varnish.  Here is what they looked like before they left.shop/projectsIt took the better part of a day to finish sanding, and breaking all the edges and corners.   While the tops are being finished, stainless steel bases are being  fabricated.  I’ll keep you posted.

On a lighter note, we had a chance to see Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally while they were in Portland.  Their two person play was lewd and severely hilarious.   Afterwards, Nick gifted me with a bottle of Oban and Lagavulin, tasty, top of the line single malt Scotch.  Just right for my smallest wall cabinet (this one made of the Elder Joseph Brackett maple from the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community).CHB cases

Don’t forget the Open House October 1 & 2.  It’s Maine Crafts Weekend.  Stop by to chat if you’re in the area.

Thought for September:  A friend is someone I have a lasting, enjoyable human interaction with, not someone who clicks a button on a mega-corporate web site. —  C.H. Becksvoort © 2016

 

 

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August 2016

Summer in Maine is short and fast.  Three months and it’s gone,  but it’s great while it lasts.  This year has been dry, but we still had a plethora of flowers, including morning glories and black eyed Susans.

IMG_8772IMG_1890Working in the shop, I had a few pieces of furniture and a pile of smaller items, “thank yous” and fixits.  First, a Deer Isle coffee table.  This is how it starts: two frames, with lapped corners, then 16 legs are added one by one.

IMG_1896I had a piece of live oak, that a friend sent from Florida about 14 or 16 years ago.  It looked like it wanted to be a mallet, so that’s what I made.  Live oak  has an oven dried specific gravity of .98, meaning it’s heavy, and just barely floats.  Just right for a mallet.

IMG_8780Friends brought in a hammered dulcimer that I made back in 1977.  It needed new corners, where the strings angle around the sides to connect with the pins.  While I was at it, I also had to re-string it.  I have a tuning wrench, but no pitch pipe, so they’ll have to do their own tuning.  With 23 pairs of strings, that’s quite a job.

IMG_8771I also had a bit of fun on the lathe.  Another friend wanted a top, the kind you spin with your hands.  So I spent the morning trying various shapes and woods.  Clockwise from the top: cherry with brass screws, dogwood, spalted maple with a hickory shaft, lilac with a cherry shaft, persimmon, solid lilac, and Osage orange.

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If you’ve never worked with Osage orange, it’s a real treat.  Bright yellow, it eventually develops a brown patina.  This is what the lathe bed looked like afterwards:IMG_1903At the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, we had the annual Friends weekend.  Having been a life member for decades, this was the first time I’ve attended.  It was a rare treat, and extremely informative.  First Leonard Brooks took us through the Trustees Office, all three floors,  showing various improvements and changes made over the years.  Next, museum curator Michael Graham showed us the new acquisitions displayed in the meeting room of the dwelling house, maps, boxes and chairs.  Finally, Brother Arnold Hadd took us on a tour of the Shaker bog.  Even though it was a foggy and drizzly day, it was impressive to see the bog, the islands and the lake, which fed and powered the Shaker mill.IMG_1913The following week I ran  a single step stool workshop  at Sabbathday Lake, and we made a bunch of these:

IMG_8785I addition I made another of my favorite round stands, what I consider to be the simplest, yet the most contemporary.  A 16″ top supported by a 7″ turned disc, below, on a post that  looks straight , but is actually slightly curved.  The legs are simple arcs dovetailed into the post.  Another  is due in October.IMG_8791Finally, after 20 some years of hoarding antique library card catalog drawers, I’ve decided to sell a few.  They are extremely handy for hardware, jewelry, spices, or collectibles.  They all show signs of age, and have a variety of hardware and finishes. Dovetailed front corners and finger jointed back corners.  The fronts have oak faces, although these can be replaced. Just cut the fronts at the dovetails, and add new fronts to cover the rod holes.  Making the fronts just over 5″ tall allows you to store CDs in the drawers. I’ll have them posted on the main site, as well as under Specials.  Cost is $60. for two or $100. for four, shipping included.IMG_8784As a parting shot, I want to remind everyone that all my furniture is gluten free.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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July 2016

There is a reason Maine is called “Vacationland.”  Summer is short but amazing.  There is so much to see and do.  The weather is mostly cooperative, we’ve only had 3 days above 90° (32°C).  For the fourth of July, we took a day trip to Acadia National Park.  Not the main part on Mt Desert Island, but the less visited portion on the Schoodic peninsula. Pink granite with black basalt dikes running through, and big waves.  I got wet on the last one.

After 30 some years, my sign out front was looking a bit shopworn.  So I made a new one, this time out of marine plywood with marine paint.

IMG_1834July is also the time of Maine Open Farm Day. Again this year I was at the Shaker village at Sabbathday Lake, inside the barn.  There, all the way in the back, stood and old, dusty Massey-Harris tractor (before Fergusen).  There were hayrides, spinning demos, food, flowers and great people.  Very nice summer weather, as well.IMG_1869

There was also a lot of shop work.  First another standing desk., this one with a small stone pull on the inside drawer.

IMG_1884If we’re lucky, the standing desk will make an appearance in FWW sometime in the future.  Standing desks are really quite handy and easy on the back, especially if you have a foot rail below.

Another desk was a small built in, something I don’t usually do, but this was for a special client.  A short wall in an upstairs room had a 3-foot nook, just right for a small desk.  I made a three sided frame with a groove along the top, into which the writing surface slid.  Below the writing surface are two drawers with full extension glides.  It only took four visits to get it fitted and adjusted. IMG_4407M. A. Stevens-Becksvoort photo.

Finally this month I had a set of hinges made.  If you recall the post from October 2014, I made a few forge welded billets of Damascus steel.  They’ve been sitting around the shop, and I finally decided to have Dereck Glaser, head of the New England School of Metalwork, turn two of them into blanket box hinges.  He did an amazing job.  I’ve got a few 24″ side clear pine boards that have been air drying for 9 or 10 years, that really want to be a blanket box.  It’s on the schedule for this fall.

IMG_1865C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

 

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June 2016

Summer is always busy, and this June was no exception.  In addition to the usual shop work, teaching and writing, there are all the outside chores: the lawn, the garden, pruning and planting.  Always a pleasure to work outside in June.  Peonies, on of my favorite perennials, put on quite the show in white, pink and dark red.

IMG_1828The maple trees we planted over 30 years ago are maturing and needed to have some of their lower branches cut, so as not to shade out the rugosa roses.  There is a spot between the driveway and the house where we used to have a cherry tree, which died, and a crab apple, which the borers did in.  I finally found a beautiful specimen tree for that location, a weeping blue spruce. It only reaches 12-15 feet in height, perfect.

IMG_1817Meanwhile, there was a lot going on in the shop.  I made a nice bookcase, 24 x 36, with a paneled back, but didn’t get a photo before it got shipped out.  I also received a treasure trove of carving tools.  There was  an extra spoon gouge ,and decided to pass it on to a friend.  First, though, it needed a new handle.  I dug out a piece of hop hornbeam, and copied the old  one.  Finished with shoe-polish and oil.  Not too shabby.

IMG_1818The better part of late June was spent making another standing desk.  This one will be featured in an upcoming FWW article.  It gets assembled and photographed today.  A finished photo should be here soon.

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We also had great dovetail workshops at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village on June 25.  Well received and attended.  Upcoming on July 8 & 9, the Open House at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, ME.  Friday morning at 11 am, I’ll be giving a talk on Shaker Furniture.  Saturday evening is the lobster dinner, followed by a coincidental Cowboy Junkies concert at the Strand Theater in Rockland.  What a summer!

C.H. Becksvoort © 2016

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